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Sawato Onsen (Kumatani)

Sawato (Kumatani) onsen in Hokkaido.Sawato (Kumatani) onsen is a free, open air, and mixed hot spring.
It is nothing more than a little wooden bath on a sandy beach of Nukabira lake. The bath tub is big enough for 4 adults who knows each other very well, or 2 adults who has never met before. The water is clear and very hot, depending on how many barrels of water from the lake was poured in the tub by the people who used it before you.
There is a little shelter with separate rooms for men and women to undress in.
The view of the lake and the surrounding mountains are quite nice, and there is an open space surrounding the the bath where people camp in the summer.

Map of Hokkaido.Sawato (Kumatani) onsen is located on the eastern bank of Nukabira lake. From route 273 take a little dirt road leading to the eastern side of the lake. There is only one road, so you can't go wrong. When you come to an open space with a beach, and a tiny wooden building, you have reached Sawato (Kumatani) onsen.

I first heard about Sawato (Kumatani) onsen from some people I met at Tomuraushi onsen. Pointing at some spot on my map of Hokkaido, they said "There is a hot spring in this area, but depending on the water level of the lake, it may be flooded." I got to know the name of this mysterious hot spring from some guys I met at Shika-no-yu. In their magazine there was a hot spring in the same area called Sawato (Kumatani) onsen. According to this magazine the hot spring could be flooded in years of heavy rain. Since it was raining a lot that summer, the guys were sure that the hot spring was flooded.

I went up a dirt road leading in the direction of the hot spring the following day. After a while I came to a little opening where there was some thing like a little beach. Some people were camping and at the other end of the opening was a little shelter. "Was this the hot spring", I thought. I got off my Harley and walked over to the shelter to check it out. Indeed if it wasn't a nice little wooden bath. There was already a man with his wife in it, but there seemed to be space enough for me too. I undressed and got in the bath with them. They were very nice. They were camping nearby and enjoying the hot spring. They even invited me to breakfast.

I stayed in the hot spring enjoying the water and the surrounding view, and thought of how good it was I went all the way down the sandy dirt road to check this place out, despite everyone's advise not to do so. "Nothing ventured, nothing gained".

The second time I went to Sawato (Kumatani) onsen was in the summer of 1997 when my friend Stig from Denmark visited me in Japan. We arrived late in the after noon. We put up our tent made a fire and started cooking. When we were finished we were sitting by the fire eating rice crackers and drinking white wine. Suddenly my friend said "Jens. There is a little animal". He picked up his flash light and caught a fox in it. The fox was just standing there. We continued eating and drinking, and suddenly we could hear the fox very close by us, and then hear it running away with something. I reached for another rice cracker, but they were not where they had been a moment ago!

The following morning we got up and went for the hot spring. There were some families with a lot of small children camping on the same little beach. They had been in the hot spring the day before. Stig was the first to get in the hot spring, but he got back out imediately. "It's too hot" He said. "Come on. It's just because your not used to real hot srpings yet" I answered, and put in my foot. I pulled it back out again imediately. He was right, it was too hot, how on earth had the children been able to enjoy this hot spring the day before? We didn't really know what to do, and finally one of the childrens fathers came and poured some water from the lake in the hot spring for us. It didn't really seem to help, so we borroed his giant containers and poured in about 5 of them in the hot spring before we were able to get in.

Having adjusted the temperature of the hot spring, it was now really enjoyable to sit there and look at the surrounding nature and have a chat. The hot spring got hot again, and we felt like cooling down, but intead of pouring in more lake water, we took a dive in the lake instead. We were swimming around in the lake having fun, when the children saw us. It didn't take long before they decided they wanted to try the same, and in almost no time there were 6 little children swimming around in the lake.

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